Quick-Reference “Slang” :   Descriptive Terms for Units in the Known World

 Janos Voros/john staeck

Brief Overview: This jargon started as a humorous side to a discussion some of us had in Calontir about how different units resembled different animals.  It evolved into weapons, and even cars before all the silliness was over.  What stuck with a few of us, however, where a few quick characterization references that helped us on the field at places like Lillies.  Over 10 years later it has become a sort of shorthand that I refer to in my notes.  Since some of this has been made public I thought it appropriate and perhaps enlightening to circulate the rest of the shorthand.


Arrow:  Unit drives to target and hits it, usually squarely.  Usually (almost always) loses tactical integrity upon the hit, producing few, if any small killer units that can increase enemy casualties.  If overwhelming or dislodging the target there is often a need to reform, reorganize, and then to select or be directed to another target.

            Diagnosis: Often dies en masse at the original target or shortly thereafter.  Few organized groups of survivors, if any, few stragglers.

            Frequency: Very Common, especially among non-integrated territorial units or small, part-time, or not-overly-serious, mercenary units – also among ad hoc units with little experience together or unspecified command structure

            Effectiveness: Modest at best. Usually gets to or near target, usually engages target, can disrupt of defeat comparable units. 

            Possible Alterations: all or any, depending upon the interests and commitment of the unit in question.  Generally emphasize basic composition and integration of fighters; surviving and killing, regrouping; command staff likely needs to be fostered/bolstered; emphasize ability to listen on the fly as well as to execute essential maneuvers to improve survivability and viability on field


Bull:  Unit hits hard and with some depth, driving deep into opposing forces.  Usually has modest to good reforms and fair to good mobility and speed, retains essential tactical stability.

            Diagnosis:  notable casualties and mayhem on both sides at impact; followed by steady stream of standard foot soldiers, because of size and flank vulnerability one also sees isolated dribs or great fluxes of losses on rare occasions.  Usually good weapons mix with numerous great weapons in support.

            Frequency:  Uncommon, often seen amongst larger, robust households or smaller regions.

            Effectiveness: Very high, minimally disrupts even heavy lines, often breaks or rolls even solid opposing lines.  Good penetration into secondary ranks and even secondary units on occasion.  Limited by size so high burn, sustained attack results in rapid attrition of unit.

            Possible Alterations:  Feed and care, nurture into elephant or into a “super bull” unit, retaining speed but with high numbers and strength.


Elephant: Unit hits targets and areas well, with great applications of force directed at multiple targets possible.  Usually has modest at best mobility but good reforms and has sufficient size to absorb survivors into effective new units (often grenade or arrow level) on the fly.  Typically possesses the widest range of weapons, including one of the few areas where masses of spears appear in the field or other open settings.  Retains essential tactical stability across multiple engagements.

            Diagnosis:  Look at the numbers- they’re huge!  Steady flow of casualties with peaks as elements of the unit hit selected targets.  Stragglers are rare, usually reintegrated into larger whole on the fly.

            Effectiveness: Very high, overwhelming smaller forces, overrunning even solid lines, often penetrating into secondary or tertiary units when stacked to oppose.

            Possible Alterations: Feed, care, and nurture, increase skills as best as possible; increase speed since speed kills. 


Grenade:  Unit hits area well, often suffers loss of tactical stability upon hitting or being hit by a hard target, sending survivors into small kill groups much like shrapnel. 

            Diagnosis: notable casualties at main impact, secondary casualties come off field in small, usually highly mobile, groups.

            Frequency: Modest, Often seen amongst most small to midsized household and integrated territorial units

            Effectiveness: First impact usually effective, disruption of enemy usually the minimal result, best result is an overrun with grenade failing to detonate, now usable on second target.  Can influence neighboring units into chasing surviving “shrapnel groups” at times.

            Possible Alterations: increased emphasis on regroup; evaluation of effectiveness of initial combat formation; more careful consideration of options open to usually fast, skilled polearms etc with limited options of main shield elements; possible change of weapons mix; increased emphasis on heavy pole fighting in static or advancing situations.


Moose:  Unit is front heavy with some speed, hits a target hard with front-oriented fighters, can crack even solid and heavy lines but lacks depth of ranks/fighters to overrun heavily defended positions; vulnerable to side and rear hits.

            Diagnosis: modest casualties among second ranks at main impact but with core fighters often surviving to reform and move on to fight elsewhere.  Core fighters tend to stick together and most tend to die together; often lose elements of second rank in process of reform and rapid movement.  Possibly a limited weapons mix to select from.

            Frequency: Uncommon, usually centered on a small group of hot sticks, perhaps a small, hot-stick household with retainers

            Effectiveness:  Very good at hitting specified units through or around screens/across battlefields.  Minimally disrupts enemy, often breaks enemy – best result is an overrun and continued unit integrity on to second target.

            Possible Alterations:  Growth into a bull or elephant by adding depth of people and ranks, incl. weapons depth; increased emphasis on keeping unit together, ideally getting 2nd ranks to move well with the speed of the core unit – thus getting a bull rather than elephant.